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Taking a chill pill
With her well-documented history of wicked behavior, Shannen Doherty prepared herself for media barbs when she signed on to play a witch in Charmed, the new supernatural series on the WB. “I read a couple of them, and, of course, nobody can be original,” says Doherty, 27, of the articles written about her ironic choice of roles. “Hopefully people have gotten over this.” Since her wilder days, the former 90210-er says she has grown up and mellowed. “Going out has become different for me,” Doherty says. “Having a nice dinner somewhere with friends is considered going out, whereas it used to start—maybe—with a quick dinner somewhere before heading elsewhere.”

Sutherland comfort
Second-generation actor Kiefer Sutherland, harking back to dad Donald‘s 1970 classic M*A*S*H, performs a tour of duty in a medevac camp in A Soldier’s Sweetheart, airing this month on Showtime. Although father and son appeared in 1983’s Max Dugan Returns and 1996’s A Time to Kill, they have never acted opposite each other. “We intend to do it sometime,” says Sutherland, 31. “There have been a number of near misses.” He shared the stage with his mother, actress Shirley Douglas, however, in a Canadian production of The Glass Menagerie last year. “During rehearsals, it was like being with someone I just met,” he says. “But when they’d call lunch, she’d grab me by the ear and take me to the cafeteria. I was her son then. When lunch was over, she’d turn.”

Making News
Actor Patrick Warburton, best known as Elaine’s proto-Guy boyfriend Puddy on Seinfeld, has turned up as a smooth operator named Johnny Johnson for a three-episode stint on NBC’s NewsRadio this month. Since Elaine and the Seinfeld gang were sentenced to a year in jail in the sitcom’s May finale, is Puddy still pining for her? “They’re destined to be together—I guess he’d have to wait,” says Warburton, 34. “At the very end, she says, ‘Don’t wait for me,’ and he just says, ‘All right’ But maybe him just saying ‘All right’ means ‘I’ll be there forever for you, babe.’ That’s their language of love.”

Bad behavior
After serving 59 days in jail this year for hitting his ex-girlfriend and fighting with cops during a cocaine and alcohol binge in 1997, Christian Slater returns to the screen in the black comedy Very Bad Things, due Nov. 25. “To me it’s important to get back to work,” says Slater, 29, who plays a very bad boy in the film. “This was an opportunity to deal with some internal questions, to walk through some personal fears. There was a part of me that thought I wouldn’t be able to play a character like I play in Very Bad Things unless I was that character on and off the screen. This gave me a real clear-cut opportunity to make a distinction between fact and fiction.”

Miracle worker
In the CBS movie Monday After the Miracle, airing Nov. 15, Touched by an Angel’s Roma Downey plays another inspirational character: Helen Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan. “I feel responsible to the fans of my show,” says Downey, 38. “I don’t think they’d want me running across the screen in my underwear carrying a bloody ax.” The actress also feels a responsibility toward her daughter Reilly Marie, 2. “The success of the show coincided with motherhood,” she says. “I was ready for the change in lifestyle motherhood brings. And I feel very proud to have the series as a legacy for my child.” Not that Reilly stays tuned for long. “She gets bored after Delia [Reese] sings the opening number,” Downey admits. “I think we have to get Big Bird as one of the guest stars.”